I am not an engineer, I am not an artist and I am not an entrepreneur. I don’t consider myself an inventor. I am an industrial designer. That means I design for industry. I design using industry. I create solutions using the limitations and possibilities provided by manufacturing processes. I worry about how Walmart will put the products I design on shelf. How will the consumer experience my products? I concern myself with the idea of a child in a shopping cart and mom at the kitchen counter. I worry about an older brother’s influence over his siblings. How will he share or guide or exclude using the products I design?
Sometimes I am paid to facelift a tried and true product. I can endlessly re-design approachable clock faces. Sometimes I am asked to re-think an over-thought problem and solve it with only enough uniqueness to be noticed on shelf. Occasionally, a product comes along that really gets at a problem I hadn’t recognized. Those are fun. Regardless of the problem, there is always a combination of aesthetics and function. Design is a balance of purpose and appeal.
The balance of approachable and inspiring is always in question. Many clients are afraid of unique. I had a client once pull me aside and explain that it never pays to be the first. New is a risk, proven is where the money is he said. My job at the time was to make that proven solution approachable, appealing and easy. I did it beautifully and I found every opportunity to push towards new without ever reaching it. That is an industrial designer. I reach forward while recognizing and appreciating the past.
If you think about the first IMac it was great because it was more approachable. It was not new. It was softer, friendlier and more appealing. That is industrial design. We use the parts, pieces and processes available to make products that speak to very real and very complicated human beings. Humans live together, we influence each other, we have past experiences. We are seeing, feeling creatures. We sense with our hands and our hearts. We surround ourselves with products designed for industry.
As an industrial designer, I am in your home. You have surrounded yourself with products designed by people like me. For the entrepreneur, I push the new and break open opportunity by remembering what is real, what is appealing and what is possible. For the manufacturer, I use parameters to create approachable appealing product that sell. And for you I am constantly working towards that perfect balance. That is what I do as an industrial designer.